coffee
(Image: Unsplash/Bruno Cervera)

THERE’S NOTHING GOOD ON THE PARTICLE ACCELERATOR ANY MORE

How fast could a race settle a galaxy? Surprisingly quickly, a new paper argues (so why are there no aliens?). Speaking of the universe, remember when I was wondering about antimatter gravity? Well, sound waves might have mass, and therefore gravity… but reverse gravity. Weird? That’s what some results are showing

Elsewhere, a new book demythologises the misnomer “artificial intelligence” and provides a reality check for technophiles.

Did you know “television sets used to be particle accelerators”? How the development of the colour TV was linked to nuclear weapons, the Cold War and the birth of Silicon Valley.

And another reason to beware public health campaigners trying to medicalise people’s lifestyle choices: how the condition “prediabetes” was invented and expanded by health industry lobbyists to sell more pharmaceuticals — and how “treating” it might lead to more harm than good.

Last but not least, a story that seems almost handcrafted to appeal to many of my obsessions: Amazon’s algorithms are enabling the spread of medical misinformation, including anti-vax lies.

THE WEEK IN EXPLOITATION

Forget the hype — ride-sharing companies are losing a lot of money and won’t last without significantly increasing their prices.

Staying in the tech world, Mark Zuckerberg’s claims last week that he is going to overhaul Facebook (yet again!) to focus on privacy are already being demolished (Crikey’s own Chris Warren chimes in here; my quick take is best summed up by the laudable American expression “render unto me a fucking break”).

Elizabeth Warren explains how and why Big Tech should be broken up. And Forbes has an interesting angle on that — what about fintech?

How ideas of meritocracy and self-made billionaires obscure the crucial role of social assets in economic success.

Something I find more than a little annoying: companies putting twee or amusing clauses deep in their terms of service. Really? How about we stop this ridiculous notion that tech consumers are “consenting” to be exploited?

And after all that, what a relief to turn to a more honest business model: the brutal economics of the funeral business in El Salvador, the world’s most homicidal country.

DAMN GOOD COFFEE — AND HOT!

A piece that simultaneously mockingly asks nutrition snobs when their anti-coffee backlash is going to arrive and reveals that decaf coffee can be good. Except… they use methylene chloride to make decaf? Shudder.

Meanwhile in London, a £15 coffee (yes, expensive even for the world’s most overpriced city) has the Financial Times wondering if one’s taste can be too refined (I call that, pace Candide, the Pococurante Effect).

And while I’m being self-indulgent, if you’re in any way interested in fizz, I found this documentary on Champagne, focused on the town of Epernay, fascinating, both as a primer on how champagne is made (and the absurd level of regulation for it) and a not entirely glowing portrait of the industry, from the itinerant Algerian workers who pick the grapes to the local worthies with kilometres of tunnels filled with bottles beneath their homes.

 

Now, back in the real world, I was a vocal opponent of Sydney’s appalling, nanny-state lock-out laws a few yeas back; Mandy Sayer has a savage piece on the destruction they’ve wrought in Sydney — and the rampant greed they’ve enabled.

THE AMBASSADOR FROM PLANET TRUMP HAS ARRIVED

Were Trump and John Bolton determined to fail at the summit with Kim? John Bolton wants to invade Iran and America will lose that war. Or not: The Atlantic offers a more positive profile of the “pragmatist” Bolton. The RAND Corporation assesses one of Trump’s few tools for achieving foreign policy outcomes, and finds it (brace yourself) confusing.

Meanwhile, Trump doesn’t want anyone revealing how many civilians his drones slaughter (likely answer: not anywhere near as many as Barack Obama at his peak, but growing all the time). 

Across the Atlantic, I’m not sure how many of you actually care a great deal about the minutiae of where Brexit is up to but Tory grandee Ferdinand Mount has deployed his considerable intellect with a cracking piece mocking the contortions of British history engaged in by Brexiteers — but also exploring how to make crude nationalism and “an adamantine insistence that the white cliffs of the nation-state shall not be eroded by the splashings of modernity” workable in the 21st century.

And, finally, the bleak story of how three brothers and the world’s biggest consulting firms corrupted the South African government.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK

An update from the OECD shows where Australia sits internationally on the gender pay gap: short answer, not good. We’re worse than the OECD average. And way worse than the Kiwis.

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FINALLY…

There’s a lot of rubbish written on canine psychology but this piece from Psychology Today has a lot of good stuff on how dogs use sensory input. Which is a good reason for this video on the importance of the provision of public infrastructure.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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